Holt Proposes Vote to Use Property Tax for Social Services

Article excerpt

County residents would be empowered to tax themselves to finance local social services under a proposal advanced Tuesday by a Ponca City lawmaker.

Republican Rep. Jim Holt unveiled House Joint Resolution 1029, which calls for a statewide vote on a constitutional amendment that would authorize citizens of a county to impose on themselves a recurring property tax to underwrite various services.

The funds would be earmarked to build, establish and maintain programs for persons "needing substantial assistance," such as transportation, community-based home care, senior citizens' centers and adult daycare centers.

The ad valorem tax would be limited to three mills per dollar of assessed valuation, the resolution specifies. Once imposed, the levy would continue each year until a majority of local voters repealed it.

Holt recently prefiled House Joint Resolution 1029 for consideration during the second regular session of the 43rd Legislature, which will convene Feb. 3. He reviewed his proposal Tuesday during a meeting of the Revenue and Taxation Committee of the Oklahoma House of Representatives. The panel took no action on the measure.

Currently the state government spends approximately $7 million each year on programs for older Oklahomans, Holt said. The 11 areawide aging agencies in Oklahoma spent $19 million in state and federal funds this past year to provide services for older citizens, added Rita Thomas, executive director of the Oklahoma Association of Area Agencies on Aging.

In comparison, the three-mill levy proposed by Holt would produce a total of $32 million annually if enacted in all 77 counties, according to the Ad Valorem Division of the Oklahoma Tax Commission. That sum would include $6.66 million for Oklahoma County, $815,865 for Canadian County, and $1.52 million for Cleveland County.

Approximately 13 percent of all Oklahomans are aged 65 or older, and senior citizens are the fastest growing segment of the population, said Roy Keen, division administrator of aging services for the Oklahoma Department of Human Services. …